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Airport manager unhappy with Delta service

Interim Airport Manager Rick Adair criticized what he termed Delta Airline’s bad service, blaming its performance for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport’s lower enplanement numbers. The airport saw an 8 percent drop in enplanements in June and Adair attributed that to a high number of Delta cancellations and delays.

“Delta is really treating this airport terribly bad,” Adair said at the monthly airport commission meeting at the airport. “They don’t want to be out here. They want to be out.”

A response was sought from Delta Airline Tuesday but no spokesperson replied to Dispatch inquiries as of late afternoon Tuesday.

Delta informed Brainerd airport officials in July of 2011 that the Brainerd airport was likely to lose Delta service at some point. The airline continues to provide service to Brainerd as the airport tries to secure a new service. A bid for airline service was awarded to Great Lakes Regional Airlines however in June that airline asked the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to rebid the contract.

Adair surprised some commission members when he said that he didn’t know the precise date but he believed there was a “drop-dead” date beyond which Delta’s service might not continue.

“We could eventually be without air service,” Adair said.

Later Tuesday he amended that statement and said he had been reassured by a Tuesday phone call with a DOT official who said the federal government would likely negotiate an extension and that Brainerd had nothing to worry about in terms of continued air service.

“I’m a lot less worried,” he said after that Tuesday morning conversation with the DOT official.

Still, some members of the airport commission expressed surprise at the news that Delta was not obliged to keep providing service until a replacement was found.

Airport commission and Crow Wing County Board member Rachel Reabe Nystrom mentioned how her scheduled flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Brainerd was delayed by several hours recently.

“They have to serve us,” she said at the meeting.

“But they don’t have to serve us well,” airport commission member Beth Pfingsten responded.

New bids for air service to Brainerd are expected to be opened July 16.

Adair said he’s hoping SkyWest Airlines bids on the Brainerd air service contract. And he said he’s hoping Brainerd enplanement numbers can be kept at a high level.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860